If you read my previous Blog, you may have thought that I’d exhausted the subject of Scottish Bridges. I thought I had too, BUT I was struggling with writer’s block this month until inspiration came from a visit to Monessie Gorge and its wee bouncy bridge. I use the term bridge quite loosely as the contraption that hangs across Monessie Gorge is more like something that “Indiana Jones” would cross as a last resort whilst being pursued by angry tribesmen blowing poison darts. The bridge creaks and flexes with every step and there are signs at each end that warn you the bridge can only take 2 people at a time. I wouldn’t even want to risk crossing with two.
Below the bridge there are some really attractive rock forms that have been carved by the abrasive action of boulders rotating in the undulations of the exposed rock layers. When we visited this month, the water level was quite low and not that spectacular, but the gorge is just downstream from the large hydro electric dam at Loch Laggan so there can be sudden man made spates surging through this narrow passage. At these times it must be even more alarming to be perched 40 feet above the raging torrent on such a flimsy little bridge.
Moving north to an even more impressive gorge, we have the slightly more robust metal bridge over the Corrieshalloch Gorge. This time the weight limit is rather more reassuring, but the bridge still has a noticeable “suppleness” that gives you a spring in your step. Your confidence in the bridge might drop a bit when you realise that it is over 100 years old.
This is most definitely not a bridge for the vertigo sufferer as the drop to the gorge below is 200 feet, but it is worth venturing across the bridge to get the view upstream towards the Falls of Measach which plunge 150 feet into the narrow gorge (which is only about 30-40 feet wide). If the bridge didn’t test your head for heights, you can also try the diving board like metal platform that protrudes over the gorge. To enhance the enjoyment of vertigo sufferers, the platform has a perforated steel grating for a floor… don’t drop your car keys!
Few other "wee bouncy bridges" in Scotland can match the one over the Corrieshalloch gorge for the height of the crossing, but the bridge at the Rogie Falls is possibly the longest crossing of this type... especially when you include the gangway either side of the suspended bit. When I say “of this type”, I mean single span suspension bridges with modest weight limits so please don’t write to me to tell me that the Greig Street Bridge in Inverness is longer….it’s my Blog, I make the rules.
The bridge at Rogie Falls is a relatively new addition and it gives a great vantage point for watching salmon migrating up the river Black Water. Taking good pictures of leaping salmon from the bridge isn’t easy as you need to stay very still to avoid setting off tremors. Also, the Rogie falls has become quite a popular stopping place so there will quite likely be someone else on the bridge disturbing your good efforts at getting a sharp focus. If you want a more stable platform for photographing leaping salmon on the Black Water river, we’d recommend you head further upstream to the old stone bridge at Little Garve.
Our last “wee bouncy bridge” is one that you need to expend some effort to visit, but it is very rewarding. If you travel to the very end of the lovely little road that heads from Fort William into Glen Nevis, you will arrive at a car park where you can start on the short, but steady climb to the “Hidden Valley” where you’ll find the Steall Falls. If you are fit, you will manage the climb in ~45 minutes. It is well worth the effort as the path weaves up through a narrow wooded canyon before delivering you to a wide open pasture where you have the Steall Falls as a back drop. on the downside, the midges can be horrendous here. If you want to continue to the base of the Steall Falls, you have to traverse the River Nevis on a bridge that consists of 3 wires; one for your feet and 2 at shoulder height for your hands to help you balance.
One of the wires on this bridge did snap back in 2010 so do take the weight limit warnings seriously. I’ve heard various explanations for why the wire snapped, but the most amusing was that it collapsed when a party of French tourists were posing for a rather large group photo. If that story is true, we do hope that photographer managed to get a picture at just the right moment.